Varadkar: I am a gay man

By Dave Molloy

Leo Varadkar revealed he is gay on live radio this morning.

He is the first Minister in Ireland's history to be openly gay. Today is also his 36th birthday.

The Minister for Health was speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 in a wide-ranging interview today, and made the announcement during a segment on his personal life.

"I suppose I've always put the career and the job in politics first … I have a good social life, but I didn't give much time to my personal life, at least until the last couple of years," he said.

"It's only now in the last two years that I've really given time to my personal life. I've always thought I'd be alone."

Asked what kind of relationship he would he to pursue, he said:

"I'm a very private person, I still am - and I always think that friends and family are off-limits.

"But I am a gay man, it's not a secret. It's [just] not something everyone would necessarily know."

It is the first public media mention of his sexual orientation.

"It is not something that defines me," he said. "I’m not a half-Indian politician or a doctor politician. I’m not a gay politician ... it’s just part of who I am."

Varadkar said he rang the Taoiseach to give him "a heads-up" about the announcement, and the Taoiseach told him it was no issue and a private matter.

He said the Taoiseach then asked him if he'd been to Panti Bar, a popular Dublin nightspot Kenny had recently visited.

"It's not a big deal for me any more, and I hope it's not a big deal for anyone else - it shouldn't be."

Varadkar said that his sexual orientation does not define him, and as Minister for Health he would not allow it to influence his decisions, particularly around the ban on gay people making blood donations, which he said would be based on public health facts.

He said the decision to announce his sexual orientation was partly influenced by upcoming legislation he would have a hand in, to ensure he was being "honest".

On the upcoming marriage equality referendum, he said "I want to be an equal citizen in my own country," but said he was not currently in a relationship, an "far away" from such a partnership himself.

Varadkar also said that he made the decision to publicly talk about his orientation because, with a year left in this government, he fears he would always regret it if he did not.

Reaction to the news was largely positive. Activist Rory O'Neill, who also goes by the drag name Panti Bliss, said it is an important day for gay rights.

"It'd be great if we were at the point where it didn't matter, and politicians didn't have to 'come out' … but we're not at that point," he said.

"We are at the point, though, where a serving Minister can come out, and I hope everyone will shrug their soldiers, talk about it for a day or two, and then we'll move on."

"I find it hard to get worked up about it," said Brendan O'Regan from the Irish Catholic.

"I hope that he came out at a time of his own choosing, and that there wasn't anyone pressurising him to do it. I think it'll be a big story for a couple of days, and I think it'll fade into the background after that."

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